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We may be heading to the polls sooner than expected, according to Account Executive Timothy Mantiri

Constitutional restraints and the vagaries of state elections are likely to force Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call the next Federal poll as early as August next year, just two years since voters last visited the polling booths.

As the Turnbull Government approaches the halfway mark of a typical three-year term, the Prime Minister and senior Liberal strategists are preparing for an election date as early as August next year. 

The dilemma around election timing is down to a constitutional requirement that a half-Senate election be held between 4 August 2018 and 18 May 2019 and that a full House of Representatives election be held by November 2019 at the latest.

As both these elections are typically held on the same day, the time frame the election will be held (not withstanding another extraordinary but highly unlikely double-dissolution election) will be within that of the half-Senate election - 4 August 2018 and 18 May 2019.

While this period is in itself quite lengthy, a number of major State elections scheduled during this time limits the options the Prime Minister has for election timing.

As Victoria and New South Wales both have fixed four-year terms, their election dates are determined - Victoria is set for 24 November 2018 and New South Wales on 23 March 2019. Typically a state campaign runs for 30 to 40 days, which rules out a Federal poll in the month preceding a state election.  This is because for practical, political and financial reasons, State and Federal election and campaigns do not overlap. Therefore, an October 2018 and a late February 2019 federal election can be ruled out.

Governments also avoid election campaigns over holiday periods, such as Christmas, New Year and Easter.

Given the need for a minimum 33-day campaign, and the Victoria election set for 24 November, this would rule out the months of December 2018 as well as January and April 2019 for a federal poll. 

Consequently, the period the next Federal election is likely to be held lies between August and September 2018 and the last possible date in May 2019.

It has already been reported that the Prime Minister would not want to risk losing the tactical advantage of being able to pick a date for the election by leaving it to the last possible date. Additionally, holding a Federal election in the months after two major State elections would seriously test the capabilities and budgets of the Victorian and New South Wales divisions of the Liberal party, leaving the August - September 2018 period as the most realistic option.

While it is always difficult to predict what will happen in the future, as they say: “a week is a long time in politics” (let alone a year!), the timing of a Federal election is one of the most sensitive political decisions a Prime Minister can make and being ready for an early poll is a simple way external stakeholders can be prepared for a rapidly changing political landscape.

It is essential that businesses looking to do work with the Federal government factor an early poll in August-September 2018 into their corporate and government relations strategies and campaigns. The period before the election is where governments look to incorporate several policy ‘announcables’ as part of their election strategy - meaning that businesses looking to work with the federal government need to have their ideas, messages, and relationships with government, primed and ready before then.

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